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Sunday, May 7, 2017

Response to the SGI/NST skeptics by Mark Strumpf

"The one change that there may be is that now it seems that the complete strawman argument that Shakyamuni did not "write" the Lotus Sutra (based on  language usage analysis) has been dropped because it has been pointed out that  no one in the Traditional Nichiren Buddhist Community (Non-SGI/NSS) makes the claim that the Lotus Sutra was "written" by Shakyamuni but rather preached by him. That is some progress at least. 

I think the motivation for these attacks on the Lotus Sutra comes out of John and others being rather stung by good evidence that many Goshos and treatises like the Ongi Kuden that NSS/SGI rely on, may well not be authentic. Hurt by this, they have lashed back with "Well !!!! The Lotus Sutra isn’t authentic either!!" Now from the point of view of a modern skeptic who has lost all spiritual insight, this has a sort of logic to it. Also, it can have appeal from the point of view of Nichiren Shoshu who has a big motivation to dismiss and degrade Shakyamuni and the Lotus Sutra and replace them with their own theories. However, from where the rest of Nichiren Buddhism sits, these criticisms are a complete irrelevancy and show that SGI and Nichiren Sho Shu practice a completely different religion than Nichiren Daishonin's.

Here is their confusion. They simply cannot fathom that the Eternal Buddha and the Historical Buddha are the same though they preach from different levels. They do not understand that the first part of the Sutra is preached from an earthly level (subject more to the jaundiced eye of the hard skeptic) and that the Honmon (second half of the Lotus Sutra) is free of all time and space. What is revealed there is the Life Span of the Buddha and the Daimoku itself. 

The Eternal Buddha may be thought of as an "Inconceivable Omni-Present Field of Cognition" (from Tendai). So the universe is not simply matter and phenomena (emptiness) but is also perfectly perceived. The entire foundation of the Hokke sect (all followers of the Lotus Sutra, especially from Tendai through Dengyo and Nichiren) is based on this. Without it there is no "Three Fold Truth of Existence’ and there is no Ichinen Sanzen. All that would be left is a Hinnyanist conception of Buddhism which the SGI seems to be veering towards (people are called Buddha because of their great contributions, Toda for example which is really the doctrine of becoming an ‘Arhat’ found in the Lesser Vehicle). When one tries this sort of disconnect and rejection of the Mahayana, that is all you are really left with. But this is being done selectively and with partisanship I think. For example, one of the central doctrines of both NSS and SGI is the ideas and methods of  ‘Original Enlightenment’ where you are to polish your ‘Buddha Nature’ to reveal your already existing Buddhahood. The problem is, the idea of a ‘Buddha Nature’ is found only and exclusively in the Mahayana which these guys are denouncing. Nichiren said that the real proof of the Lotus Sutra was is his own appearance on earth as the predicted votary of the Lotus Sutra. Do you really think that John [NST] and Terry [SGI] are privy to insights deeper than Tendai, Dengyo and Nichiren, all of whom adhered to the Mahayana and supported and understood the Honmon’s preaching that there is one omni-present central Buddha? Now here there is a difference between Nichiren Sho Shu and SGI. The NSS still nominally agrees with the Truth of the Lotus Sutra but sees Nichiren as its earthly manifestation. The Gakkai is spinning off into some sort of formulation like "The Force" in the movie Star Wars. So these criticisms can not really touch the core teachings of the Lotus Sutra because we are clearly told that they are preached free of all time and space. Further we cannot discard them because Nichiren tells us that the very essence of the Lotus Sutra is the Daimoku and specifically it is found in Chapter 16. If we have no "Inconceivable Field of Cognition", then Nichiren is a false prophet and the Daimoku is worthless. Tendai himself said that "He was personally present" when this fundamental Truth was preached on Vulture peak. The modern skeptic has no spiritual capacity or inner wisdom to understand such things and will quickly pass over it simply as a manner of speaking. 

Finally it is nearly impossible to debate such matters with NSS/SGI because you cannot look to the Gosho itself for proof by their rules. They have the theory of reading the Sutra and Gosho "From the Depths" which simply means that Nichiren (and Tendai etc) don’t really mean what they have written. When Nichiren preaches clearly and unmistakably about the Eternal Buddha, they say "He doesn’t really mean it" . When Nichiren preaches that all depends of the Truth of the Lotus Sutra, they say "He really doesn’t mean it". When Nichiren identifies the Eternal Buddha  as Shakyamuni, they say ‘He doesn’t really mean it".   

The rest of us say he did mean what he wrote, the Daimoku absolutely depends on the Lotus Sutra and is its quintessent meaning and the Honmon is true, Eternal and untouchable by skeptics." -- Marc S.

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